Friday, September 21, 2012

Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter. ~Ansel Adams

If it wasn't for my iPhone I would have missed an opportunity to  immortalize my Mom with the Bieber.

One tell-tale sign that you are a blogger is when you show up to a gathering of friends or family with a camera in tow, they all go scurrying for cover.  Gosh, what do they think?  I have nothing better to blog about on the world wide web than embarrassing  pictures and  anecdotes of them? Really?  I'll admit, I've dug from that ditch a few times when my creative juices were running dry or nothing was happening at the beach except a few chunks of sea pork washing in on the wrack line.  That's what boundaries are for.  And I've made some.  With them. 

 I actually have stopped carrying my digital camera to the beach.  I found I was missing the moment trying to capture it on camera.  I needed to step back and breathe some salty air and take it all in again.  But wait.... the amazing photo op is in front of me and no camera but an iPhone in my pocket taa daa!  I'm hooked on iPhone pictures.  I especially love all the photo apps like Instagram, Diptec, and Photoshop Express.  There are tons of photography apps available but I like to free ones cos "if it's foe free, it's foe me!"  My big camera still comes out on "official" blogging days but most of the pictures you see on my blog have been taken on my iPhone.  I'm not a trained photograher by any stretch.  My technique is to shoot a bunch of shots and hopefully something special will turn out .  It's just the law of probability.

My signature feet shot.  

The trees of Stump Pass State Park  are a favorite of mine.  I walk the mile out to the end of the pass every few weeks.  Depending on season, weather, & time of day my pictures always look  the same but different.  I took this one 9.16.12.  

Shell trees grow on Stump Pass.

Stump Pass is an ever changing landscape due to it's location.  There is always waves, weather, & tree roots to photograph.  Oh and shells did I mention the shells.

I was inspired by a photo taken by Capt. Brian Holaway from last April.  I have been shooting pictures of dead trees ever since.  
I took this picture on my iPhone last week on Blind Pass Beach/Manasota Key.  Since the beach is only 2 miles away spontaneous after dinner sunset jaunts are  normal for my family.  We just grab a chair and go.
Blind Pass Beach/Manasota Key taken last June during another sunset walk.
When shell piles like this show up on Blind Pass Beach/Manasota Key I almost forget to take a picture.

Sunset from Englewood Beach taken a few weeks ago.  I started watermarking my photos but if someone really wants to scrape a photo they will just crop the watermark out anyhow.  I take pictures because the beach is beautiful and I want to share it with you.

 If you don't have a smartphone you can check out my pictures on Webstagram   on your computer.    

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Did you know that according to Keep America Beautiful, Inc. cigarette products comprise 38% of all roadside litter?  The same people that would never consider tossing trash such as soda cans, plastic water bottles, or fast food wrappers out of their car window do not consider it littering to  flick a cigarette butt to the ground. Over the last 26 years that the International Coastal Clean-up has been documenting and categorizing the trash and litter picked up on it's annual clean-up days more than 53 million cigarette butts have been picked up by volunteers.  This is enough cigarette butts to fill up 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  Now if you are a smoker (as I was 25 years ago) please understand I am not in any way wanting to stand in the way of your choice to breathe smoke.  I am simply  asking that once you breathe that smoke - is it asking too much that you would dispose of the cigarette butt properly?  That means throwing the cigarette butt out of your car window, flicking it on to the ground, or for heaven's sake using our precious pristine beaches for your ashtray is wrong wrong wrong.

This past Saturday I joined with my community on Englewood Beach for the 27th Annual International Coastal Clean-up Day.  We linked litter grabbers & work-gloved hands with 1,000's of other volunteers across Florida, the USA, and the entire globe cleaning up our community's lakes, rivers, and coastlines.  What was most encouraging was all the young people involved. Hopefully this is inspiring awareness to a younger generation of how the simple act of cleaning up after yourself can improve our planet.  There were girl scouts, a locally founded group called Kids Creating Change, and business people who organized the local event called Lemon Bay/Myakka Trail Scenic Highway walking Englewood Beach and picking up litter and debris, a lot of which was on the wrack line which means it probably came from the Gulf of Mexico and was washed in from the latest storm.  The Capri Sun straw wrappers & soda cans were easy to pick up.  The 1,000's of cigarette butts - not so much.

Cigarette butt litter is a huge environmental issue with a global impact - it is both unsightly and unhealthy in so many ways.  Cigarette butts are not bio-degradable as some misinformed smokers may think.  As the discarded butts lay on the ground toxins from the tobacco leach into the soil and the ground water eventually  harming all living things in it's path.  Cigarette butts on the beach are mistaken for food by birds.  Cigarette butts flicked into the water are ingested by fish, turtles, & dolphins causing harm to them as well. I wouldn't want my kids playing in a sandbox full of cigarette butts on the playground so why would the beach be any different?   On Earth Day 1971 a commercial of a Native American shedding a tear over the garbage and pollution carelessly littering our land changed me as a little girl.  I never looked at litter the same way again. Maybe we can't change all the pollution and litter problems but don't curse the darkness - light a candle by picking up litter and trash when you see it.  It's very simple really - just clean up after yourself. 

 CLICK HERE For some great ideas for building awareness and cleaning up cigarette litter in your community. 

(Credit:  Ocean Conservancy 2012)
Top Ten Items Found  compiled from 25 years of collection data kept by Ocean Conservancy who sponsors the annual International Coastal Clean-up Day.
Girl scouts crisscrossed the beach picking up food wrappers, hair ties, and hundreds of cigarette butts.

My clean-up buddy was Caitlyn  - founder of Kids Creating Change.  Caitlyn is an ordinary kid doing extraordinary things in her community.  In the last year the club she founded has collected toys to send to a local children's hospital, held a school supply drive for kids that are less fortunate, & sponsored a fun summer event at a local skate park to promote some drug-free fun.  Kids Creating Change sponser beach clean-ups throughout the entire year not just on official clean-up days.  It all started with Caitlyn's  first blanket drive for the homeless when she was in 5th grade.  Undaunted by any challenge in her community, she has a positive can-do attitude that is ready to be the change that is needed.

(Credit:  Kids Creating Change)
Just one of the two jugs full of butts from Englewood Beach collected at a past beach clean-up by Kids Creating Change.

This "Y" shaped piece of coral that Caitlyn found on the beach  is begging the answer to the question
"Why do people use the beach for an ashtray?". 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I am NOT a stalker... well maybe just a little one but I promise to stay hidden so you wont notice me.. :P

Asking an avid sheller where they found their overflowing bucket of shelling treasures is like asking a  fisherman where he fishes to catch the big ones. The reply to your pointed question is usually answered in a mumbled garbled vague  sort of way. You'll never get specifics and you will definitely get their best poker face.  Most serious shellers will share their favorite shelling spots but don't think for a moment there aren't a few left in the vault for safe-keeping.  A few years back I started seeing some very interesting pictures being posted from the Bonita Springs area on the iLove Shelling Facebook page. 

This beach chick was posting pictures of huge horse conchs & stunning alphabet cones, the likes of which I hadn't seen for a while even on Sanibel. She wasn't giving up too many details either but did elude to a tennis court by some beach condo & she always called it "the 10 spot".  So I did what any self-respecting beach combing lunatic such as myself would do - I facebook stalked her.  I went back and read all her posts.  I looked at her facebook pictures (all 206 of them)  for landmarks.  I took all the information I gathered and scanned  the terrain on Google Earth.  I felt pretty certain I had nailed down the location.  Silly me.  It never dawned on me to just Facebook Carla & ask her where the 10 spot was located duh.  Now that I've met her in person, she is such a sweetheart, she would've told me in a heartbeat.

The 10 Spot is now one of my favorite places to go shelling.  It's a huge cove on the north end of Little Hickory Island just north of Bonita Springs Beach. The little bay almost completely empties out at a low tide.  The post-Isaac pictures of the huge shell pile at the 10 Spot were just too much to resist.  I set my alarm for 3am on Sunday morning and made the 2 hour drive south to Little Hickory.  My niece Pookie & I made our way out to the 10 Spot as the sun was rising.  There were so many shells, shell piles, wrack lines full of shells, & sand bars lined with shells that I seriously went into sensory overload.  The area would be under water in 3 hours when the high tide rolled in so I saved the 6 foot high by 80 foot long shell pile for last.  That small mountain of shells was not going anywhere. Surprise!! My shell sister Carla showed up with her mom Sue. It just goes to show you that not all stalking relationships end badly.

Pre-dawn beach combing is a very surreal experience.

The last vestiges of the blue moon are still visible in the western sky over the Gulf of Mexico.

The ginormous shell pile created by Hurricane Isaac is 6' tall by 80' long.  There are thousands of fighting conchs that were tossed onshore by the storm waves and are now one hot stinky mess.

Pookie doesn't waste any time inspecting the sandbar.

What an awesome find but it's occupato so back to the sandbar he /she goes to make more little horse conchs for future shellers.

At high tide the cove is entirely under water.  I've seen this cove totally empty during a minus low tide in the past.

Looking across the sandbar to the north is Lover's Key State Park.
The sun rose at 7am.  We had already been shelling for an hour.

The tide is still receding.  This entire canal will empty out by 9am.

Even 4 days after the storm shells are piled up every where.  When the tide turns this will all be under water in 4 hours.

All birds are accustomed to bait being in a bucket.  This snowy egret gave me the snub when he discovered only shells in the bucket.

The morning was alive with the sound of birds.

Pookie, Carla, & Sue walk the tidal pools.  They will leave no pen shell uncovered.

Hermit crabs from the tidal pool.  (Credit:  Carla Barone)
Huge true tulip - live shells always go back where we found them.            (Credit:  Carla Barone)

Carla found this huge whelk - empty YAY! (Credit:  Carla Barone)

Do your self a favor and wear old sneakers when walking in muck like this.  I've been soaking a puncture in my heel for one of these fighting conchs because I went barefoot.

The sandy bottom that the receding low tide left looks like a moonscape.

The wrack line was full of dead pen shells & fighting conchs.  I used my hand rake to sift through them but it was a stinky endeavor.

Carla standing on top of the biggest shell pile.

We methodically dug from one end to the other.  I can still hear the sounds of the shells jingling in my head.
Bumper sticker idea - I DIG SHELL PILES!  (Credit:  Carla Barone)